In Which Nick Savors a Lovely Moment
Congenitally early, especially for what I had gathered was upper-tier Kiarostami and top-drawer Binoche, I was in my aisle seat, third row from the back, virtually from the moment they opened the screening room. I didn't realize that, once the Eberts had arrived, Roger had placed himself two rows behind me and that, since I'm rather tall, my head might be blocking part of his view. About five minutes into the movie, as William Shimell's "James Miller" got going with his self-satisfied press conference, my peripheral vision caught someone signaling me from just behind my shoulder and to my left: Roger, standing in the aisle. For reasons we all know, he was signaling with hands and gaze rather than words, and the predictable upshot had a lovely extra accent: he wanted me to scooch just a bit out of his eyeline, but not so far that I would block his wife's. "James Miller" needs some tutelage during Certified Copy about how to make a partner feel appreciated, but Roger Ebert obviously doesn't. I migrated one seat, but not two, and looked back to make sure I had understood what he wanted. He looked wholly grateful, but of course he couldn't speak that aloud, either.
So he gave me a thumbs up. Imagine!
Unlike most of the critics who attended Certified Copy, he stayed for Heartbeats, which started a half-hour later. I noticed he was grabbing some shut-eye between the two movies, and I didn't want to bother him anyway, so I quickly scribbled a note, folded it, and wrote his name across the top, so I could leave it on the seat next to him. But when I re-entered the room to subtly deposit my letter, he was fully awake again and made instant and friendly eye-contact, so I handed him the note in person. So lovely to have an impromptu chance to speak from your heart to someone whom you admire but never expect to thank directly. My note, in certified copy:
I teach film studies and occasionally film reviewing in the English Department at Northwestern. You mean so much to so many of my students.
Thanks, in perpetuity, for everything you do, from them and from me. To get a thumbs-up from youif only for scooting over a seat!is such a special treat.
With such debts and affection,